"They call it either the gray tsunami or the silver tsunami," said Linda Raimondi, coordinator of Geriatric Education at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC). "This is a problem all over the world." Raimondi was referring to the growing elderly population.
Currently, one in eight U.S. residents is older than 65. Raimondi says by 2030, that's expected to be one in five, and that's definitely the case in Allegheny County which has the second oldest per capita population in the nation. "The need for caretakers is only going to rise as we have people living longer with chronic diseases."
To help meet the need for care providers, CCAC's Elder Care Achievement program has been awarded a $514,000 grant over three years from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. Raimondi said the program offers training to those who work "on the front lines" of taking care of older adults including nurses, certified nursing assistants, physical therapists and nursing home administrators.
"This training enables the people working with older adults to better understand their needs," Raimondi said, "and it also helps them learn new techniques for managing the challenging behaviors that arise from dementia or why patients aren't following through with their care. It gives them tools they can use to help them do their jobs better."
According to Raimondi, there is elderly caregiving training in the Pittsburgh area, but it's not as available in rural areas. So, CCAC will use the grant to expand the training for care providers to Armstrong, Beaver, Butler and Westmoreland Counties. The grant will also provide funding to train locally underserved populations to become certified nursing assistants.
She said the need for caregivers is increasing because of the growing elderly population and the high turnover in the profession. "But studies show that training actually helps that," Raimondi said. "If you train individuals who work with older adults, you help lower turnover."
Raimondi added that while the need is increasing so to is interest by people who want to become caregivers. "We see a lot of recent immigrants who may have been maybe nurses in their country, but their license doesn't transfer here to the U.S. So they may go into the field like certified nursing assistant [be]cause this is the first step on a career ladder for them. Then we have others like returning homemakers who just really like taking care of older adults and really want to make a difference in someone's lives."